Constructed shade cover can protect plants from Maricopa's harsh summer sun. Submitted photo

By Betty Beeman

Betty Beeman
Betty Beeman

June and July are difficult months for gardeners because of the long days, high temperatures and low humidity. It’s important to monitor water at this time because inadequate water management is the number one cause of landscape death. If your garden soil is sandy, you will have to irrigate more frequently than if your soil is silt or clay.

Sunburned bark is indication of heat stress. The bark of tender plants like citrus and mulberry are often damaged by direct sun and heat. The damage shows up on the southwest side of the tree trunk and on exposed branches. The bark usually peels off in large pieces leaving huge wounds in the trunk.

Unfortunately, it is this damage that contains the tubes that conducts food energy from the roots to the leaves and the leaves to the roots

To ensure the entire root zone gets wet during irrigation, water needs to penetrate the soil at least three feet for trees. For shrubs the soil should be wetted to two feet and for shallow-rooted bedding plants, one foot. After irrigation you can check the depth penetration using a long screw driver or a three-foot piece of rebar pushed down into the soil.

Another way to check your soil is to dig down six inches with a garden trowel, take a handful of soil and squeeze and release. If the soil leaves a wet outline on your hand and forms a nice compacted ball you know you do not need water. If the soil forms a weak crumbly ball you know it’s time to water.

Failure to fill the entire root zone each time you water will cause the lower roots to dry out and the plant will begin to suffer. Irrigate often enough to keep moisture in the soil and not so often that the soil stays sloppy wet.

You might consider some type of shade cover for your plants for their protection. This is especially true for newly planted trees in their first year.

We strive to find a balance between keeping plants healthy and saving water. Violate a plants’ basic need for water and it will simply not survive in our harsh environment.

Betty Beeman is a Maricopa resident and Pinal County Master Gardner.

This column appeared in the July issue of InMaricopa.


  • Mulch 3-4 inches deep with wood chips to retain moisture around plants/trees
  • Never use hot water from a hose. Let water run until it cools off first before watering your plants.
  • Plants in containers are the same temperature as your outside temperature, so shade and water are important. Plants in the ground are ten to fifteen degrees cooler.
  • Early morning watering is best because evaporation is much less.
  • Good time to plant palm trees, pumpkin, winter squash, gourds, marigolds, sunflowers. Google “Phoenix Gardening Calendar” for more information.



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